Month Archives: June 2015

Christianity’s Revolutionary Recognition of Women as Equals

by David J. Theroux

June 5, 2015

For millennia, marriage has been universal to civilization with most marriage ceremonies involving religion. Yet for years, traditional marriage and the family have been subjected to secular ridicule, with the family increasingly politicized and socialized by “progressive” government bureaucracies.

The result has been an unprecedented decline of the family in America, producing increasing rates of non-marital births, divorces, juvenile crime, substance abuse, and other pathologies. However, this trend need not be permanent. Put simply, the progressive narrative that supports it is unfounded and refuted by the witness of cultural experience.

The biblical account of marriage begins with one man and one woman: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them.’” And, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus later called humanity back to these records (Matthew 19:4–5, Mark 10:6–8), and the Christian story is viewed as ending with the wedding of Christ with His bride, the Church, from which all Christian discussions of marriage stem.

In Christianity, marriage is hence a sacred union of the highest order. However, since the Enlightenment, secularism has defined marriage as a civil union. Many academics view traditional marriage as a patriarchy to dominate and oppress women, all supported by despots animated by their Christian faith. Such a narrative is based on the theory that primitive mankind was egalitarian, matrilineal, and socialist, with communal sexual relations, despite the biological and kinship basis of heterosexual pairing.

However, for thousands of years around the world, a wife was considered a husband’s property. In ancient Jewish communities, almost every adult was married. By age thirteen, a man chose a wife who was betrothed (committed legally to marriage) and, thus, considered de facto married. The man headed the family, with the wife his property. In the Greco-Roman pagan world, marriage was reserved for citizens, and a woman shared her husband’s station as mother of his children, but she and the offspring were his.

While adultery was prohibited for women, no fidelity obligation existed for men. Older men could force marriage on pre-pubescent girls and compel them to have abortions, usually certain death for not only the baby but also the girl. Moreover, according to sociologist Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity, infanticide was a commonplace, with baby girls disproportionately abandoned, resulting in “131 males per 100 females in the city of Rome, and 140 males per 100 females in Italy, Asia Minor, and North Africa.”

Only with the arrival of Christianity did the status of women change as obligations were placed on husbands. As Stark has shown, “Christians condemned promiscuity in men as well as in women and stressed the obligations of husbands toward wives as well as those of wives toward husbands…. The symmetry of the relationship Paul described was at total variance not only with pagan culture but with Jewish culture as well.

Stark shows that Christianity recognized women as equal to men, all sacred to God. Christian wives did not have abortions (neither did Jewish wives), and Christians opposed infanticide, polygamy, incest, divorce, and adultery—all to women’s benefit. No longer serfs to men, women had dignity, were not rushed into marriages, and served as leaders in rapidly growing Christian communities. Christian women married into more secure families, had better marriages, were not forced to remarry if widowed, and were given assistance when needed. Stark notes Paul’s teaching:

But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. (I Corinthians 7:2-4)

Thus, the progressive narrative upon which contemporary, anti-family policies rest, is false. Only through Christianity did women receive full marriage rights and gender equality in fidelity. The private, monogamous family has served well the human needs for love and companionship, economic and social well-being, and the rearing of children.

Abandoning these lessons is at the root of the modern decline of the family, and government can only further undermine the rights and benefits that have uplifted the lives of countless men, women, and children through Christian-inspired marriage.

To restore the family, civic and religious leaders must continue to challenge such folly and advance reforms that strengthen rather than weaken the most extraordinarily successful social unit in history – the family. In this regard, religious and secular leaders should protect the sovereignty of religious institutions to perform marriages according to their own beliefs.

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*David J. Theroux is founder, president and chief executive officer of the Independent Institute in Oakland, California; founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Society of California; and publisher of The Independent Review.

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News June 4, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 5, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


Last Sunday, I went to church, morning and evening. This morning, I read the Bible in my home. Our family car has an “icthus” fish symbol on its tailgate.

And so on.

None of these things is exceptional for tens of millions of American Christians. We are not monitored and our lives are not at risk. We can reside where we choose, purchase any goods or services we desire, travel without restriction.

So why is Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida running for his party’s presidential nomination, saying “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech?” Consider:

  • Christianity teaches eternal destruction (read that, hell) for those without the Savior it heralds.
  • Christianity teaches that all men and women are sinners by nature and by choice.
  • Christianity teaches that there’s only one way to God — Jesus Christ.
  • Christianity teaches that all other professed ways to God are false.
  • Christianity teaches that sexual intimacy is reserved solely for one man, one woman marriage.

These beliefs run counter to the increasingly insistent demands of the secular Left that Christians be quiet and go along with the agenda of progressivism and its desire for complete religious quietism. Telling people that without Jesus, they are bound for eternal punishment can be hard in itself, but in a culture where “niceness” and being religiously innocuous are seen as paramount virtues, doing so is not just anachronistic and intrusive but, at the least, “microagressive.” Or, as Sen. Rubio put it, “hate speech.”

As Adam J. White, writing in The Weekly Standard, observes, “concerted efforts by the administration and its allies not just to create and enforce a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but to go still further and force third parties—such as the proverbial photographers and bakers—to personally and directly facilitate such weddings, raise increasingly stark questions of religious freedom under federal and state law.”

Myriad examples abound of various spokespersons of the iron-fisted Left telling believers to pipe down and/or change the tenets of their faiths. It’s enough to say that not to proclaim truth, winsomely but clearly and without embarrassment, is loveless. And since Christians are to be known by their love (John 17;22-23), how can we be silent and remain faithful?

Even if our love is called hate.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Be sure to watch FRC’s latest lecture, featuring Dr. John Eastman, on “Cutural Imperialism and the Obama Administration.”


Human Dignity and Sanctity of Life

Abortion

Adoption

Assisted Suicide

Obamacare

Marriage & Family

Economy and the family

Fatherhood and Motherhood

Homosexuality and Gender Issues

Human Trafficking

Marriage

Pornography

Religious Liberty

Domestic

International

Religion in Public Life

Education

Other Stories of Note

Does Masculinity Matter?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 4, 2015

For that matter, does masculinity even exist?

In an era of Bruce Jenner’s sexual self-reinvention, same-sex adoptions, “gender studies,” “transgendered” bathrooms, etc., does being a man have any meaning, objectively, morally, or culturally?

Does a child need a father and a mother or just two parents?

Is sexuality “fluid,” elastic, subjective?

Of course, at FRC we answer yes to all but the last of these questions. We believe that God made man male and female (Genesis 1:27, 5:2), and that His creation is good.

Our friends at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood provide an outstanding guide to what Scripture teaches about masculinity. Hint: Throw out any hostile stereotypes you might have (for example, that Christianity somehow affirms the right of men to be victimizing aggressors, predatory users of women, etc.) and see what the Bible says.

Men and women are different. Let’s rejoice that this is now, and always will be, so.

A good and balanced law

by Cathi Herrod, President, and Josh Kredit, General Counsel and Vice President of Policy, Center for Arizona Policy

June 2, 2015

Cross-posted by permission of the Center for Arizona Policy, part of a national network of partner organizations that advance faith, family, and freedom at the state level.

Many of you likely watched the scene unfold in Indiana last month where supporters of religious freedom sought to pass a fairly simple law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The scene was eerily similar to what played out here in Arizona with the CAP-supported SB 1062. Ignoring the facts, opponents of religious freedom falsely claimed that the bill would allow individuals to have a license to do pretty much anything, all in the name of their free exercise of religion. Or in other words, they wrongly tried to say religious freedom would become the equivalent of Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free Card.”

Yet what was lost in the debate, both here in Arizona and in Indiana is the reality of how these laws actually operate in a court-setting and in real life. They don’t provide a license to do whatever illegal activity somebody wants to do. Rather, they provide the court with a well-established and longstanding legal balancing test for analyzing competing interests.

To provide some background, Arizona has had a state-version of RFRA since 1999, and a nearly identical federal law has been in place since 1993. More than 20 states also have state RFRAs.

In a nutshell, RFRA ensures the government cannot force someone to violate their religious convictions unless the government meets a strict legal test. For the strict legal test, the government must show it has a really good reason for the law and that the law is narrowly tailored to achieve that objective. If the government does that, then the RFRA defense fails and the government law or action stands.

Although Indiana’s original version of RFRA was heavily amended after big business bullied the governor and legislature, the remaining law is still set to take effect on July 1, 2015.

This brings us to a recent story out of Indiana and a perfect example of how RFRA works. Calling his newly formed church the First Church of Cannabis, founder Bill Levin plans to break the law and openly smoke marijuana. If he is cited or arrested, he says he will claim Indiana’s RFRA for protection.

Unfortunately for Mr. Levin, this same ploy was attempted in Arizona already, and Arizona’s RFRA operated just like it’s supposed to.

In 2005, Danny Hardesty was arrested for possession of marijuana, and in court he claimed that the use of marijuana was a sacrament of his church, the Church of Cognizance. This case reached the Arizona Supreme Court in 2009, and in a unanimous ruling the Court ruled against Hardesty.

Even assuming Hardesty had a truly sincere religious belief to smoke marijuana, the Court found that the government has a good reason to prohibit marijuana use (the fact that it poses a real threat to individual health and social welfare, in addition to the public safety concern posed by unlimited use, particularly by those driving motor vehicles), and that “no less restrictive alternative [ ] would serve the State’s compelling public safety interests and still excuse the conduct for which Hardesty was tried and convicted.”

So there you go, RFRA is not a “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” and it does not provide a license to do whatever illegal activity someone wants. Rather, it is a time-tested and just law that allows for courts to acknowledge when the government overreaches and burdens someone’s free exercise of religion, and to balance that against the reasons for the government action.

Please watch for the launch of the 3rd edition of The Policy Pages later this fall, which will include a brief devoted solely to explaining how laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act work.

 

Telling the Stories

by Family Research Council

June 1, 2015

America has long protected the religious liberty of its citizens and we are blessed to possess the great freedoms that we do. But it is not enough to cling to nostalgic arguments about our history, we must reclaim our most sacred freedoms anew with each generation. Telling stories is one of the best ways to communicate values and encourage action. FRC has launched a new website that seeks to tell the stories of the many men and women in America who have experienced government bullying because of their faith. Religious liberty is sacred and we must listen to the stories of those who have seen it threatened. It is our duty to protect with vigilance what our forebears have passed on to us.

Two Noteworthy Supreme Court Decisions Announced Today

by Travis Weber

June 1, 2015

EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch

In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, a Muslim woman who wore a headscarf was denied a job under the Abercrombie’s “look policy” and sued under Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination. Abercrombie had stated it did not have “actual knowledge” of the woman’s need for a religious accommodation — meaning she never told the company she had to wear a headscarf because of her religion. The Court said Title VII contained no such requirement; the job applicant only has to show that the need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision. In other words, the employer can’t discriminate against the employee or prospective employee “because of” their religion, or on account of their religion, and can’t make their religious practice “a factor” in employment decisions.

This is a good result with regard to protecting the religious practices of employees. In the future, in other contexts where employers may seek to exclude Christians from the workplace, the employers won’t be able to escape the law by claiming ignorance. While the headscarf was at issue in this case, it could have just as easily been a Mennonite woman’s hair-covering. The next case may feature a Christian’s cross, crucifix, or “fish” pin that is the problem for the employer. In all these cases, the Court’s ruling today means that the employer won’t be able to escape liability by just claiming “the employee never told me they needed a religious accommodation.” Regardless of whether the employee told the employer, as long as they can show the employer’s decision was at least partly motivated by the need for an accommodation, the employee can prevail.

Elonis v. United States

In Elonis v. United States, an individual posted violent rap lyrics on Facebook concerning his wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, and law enforcement. He was convicted in federal district court under a federal statute (18 USC Section 875(c)) prohibiting threatening communications, on the grounds that a “reasonable person would foresee that his statements would be interpreted as a threat.” This standard, which could result in someone’s conviction for a threat which they were merely negligent about, was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Today, the Supreme Court reversed, saying that Section 875 must be interpreted to include an intent requirement (thus the government has to prove that an individual intended their communication to be a threat under the statute (or knew it would be viewed as a threat), not that some other reasonable person merely sees it as a threat). The Court did not address whether a reckless act could result in conviction under Section 875, but ruled that negligent acts could not result in conviction under the statute.

This case was decided on statutory construction grounds, so the Court did not get into First Amendment issues. Nevertheless (recognizing that the comments in this case are certainly unsavory), his result has positive free speech implications, as the Court helped ensure this statute can’t be used to target unpopular speech (possibly communications characterized as “hate speech”) as threats — which would have been easier to do under a negligence standard being applied to this statute. Practically, this ruling makes it more difficult to prosecute Christians proclaiming a Gospel message just because someone else feels “threatened” by their communications.

Along with strong First Amendment free speech jurisprudence, pro-individual rights interpretations of criminal laws like Section 875 (such as the Court’s opinion in this case) will help keep the government in check and ensure free discourse on contentious issues in the future.

It is important to remember that the Court did not actually rule that the comments in this case were constitutionally protected. It just said that to convict someone under the criminal statute at issue, the government had to prove more than it did regarding the individual’s intent in making the comments.

This decision is also a win for those who believe the government is able to convict too easily under criminal statutes because in many cases it no longer has to show intent, and has far too many criminal statutes at its disposal.

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